Benton County To Have More Patrol Deputies, Ends Special Operations After Complaint

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BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) — Interim Sheriff Meyer Gilbert has dismantled the Benton County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Division, according to a sheriff’s office spokeswoman.

The unit was dismantled several months after the Rogers and Bentonville mayors and police chiefs put their concerns about the SOD in a letter to county leaders, but spokeswoman Keshia Guyll said Tuesday (Aug. 16) the letter did not play a role in Gilbert’s decision to reorganize the division.

Guyll also said a discuss to dismantle the unit was already underway under former Sheriff Kelley Cradduck.

According to the sheriff’s office, the decision will allow more deputies to patrol during each shift.

“In dissolving this division, it allows for more deputies in the patrol division, putting more deputies out in the county and on county roads,” Guyll said. “Instead of 8-9 a shift, we will now have 16-20 depending on day and shift. It will lower our response time and increase awareness of our presence.”

The letter submitted in April, accused deputies of unsafe driving and poor communication during special operations.

It also listed several specific incidents in Bentonville and Rogers over the last several months where the police chiefs and mayors felt deputies behaved in a way that undermined public trust.

The following incidents occurred in Bentonville:

  • Oct. 13, 2015: around 1 p.m. a deputy in an unmarked vehicle responded to suspicious activity in Lowell that resulted in a three-vehicle accident at SE 14th Street and SE J Street. An investigation found the deputy’s actions were a contributing factor in the accident.
  • Dec. 16, 2015: around 7 a.m. a deputy in a marked vehicle who was attempting to make a traffic stop made a u-turn maneuver that resulted in a two-vehicle accident at SW 14th Street and Tunbridge Street. An investigation found the deputy’s actions were a contributing factor in the accident.
  • Jan. 28, 2016: around 1 p.m. a deputy in an unmarked vehicle responded to an incident in the Gravette area that resulted in a three-vehicle accident at SW 14th Street and Tunbridge Street. An investigation found the deputy was driving in excess of 100 miles per hour with reckless driving both in the center turn lane and the opposite lane of traffic. The Bentonville Police Department received citizen complaints regarding other deputies that were likewise responding to the incident. The complaint described another unmarked vehicle driving in excess of 100 miles per hour. An investigation found that deputy had also been driving recklessly in Bentonville even though the incident the deputy was responding to was occurring near the Oklahoma border.

The following incidents occurred in Rogers:

  • Dec. 29, 2015: during the afternoon hours deputies initiated a “sting” operation during which the suspects fled the area with deputies giving chase. After losing the suspects’ vehicle, deputies were reported to be traveling at extremely high speeds through the city in search of the vehicle. When the suspects were located deputies once again gave chase resulting in a resident being involved in a collision at South 8th Street and Price Lane. No deputies stopped to check on the welfare of the people involved in the collision. The suspects then crashed at Dixieland Road and Price Lane and fled on foot, but none of the deputies secured the scene of the crash. It wasn’t until half-an-hour later that a Rogers officer came across the scene and secured it.
  • Feb. 3, 2016: around 8:15 p.m. a deputy stopped a vehicle in a residential neighborhood when the passenger fled the scene. The response from the sheriff’s office, which included responding to the scene at extremely high speeds, blocking entrances to neighborhoods and bringing in a helicopter, caused alarm among the residents that led to more 64 calls to Rogers dispatch.
  • April 21, 2016: another “sting” operation attempted by deputies involved a high-speed pursuit through residential neighborhoods of Rogers reaching speeds of nearly 70 miles an hour on Olrich Street. The Rogers Police Department wasn’t made aware of the operation until it was over.
  • April 22, 2016: deputies again attempted a sting operation in Rogers. The sheriff’s office notified Rogers dispatch shortly before midnight about an operation deputies would be conducting in the parking lot of a Walmart on Pleasant Grove Road, which is open 24/7. The requesting deputy asked that Rogers officers stay out of the area. Less than 10 minutes later, Rogers officers were notified that shows had been fired in the parking lot.

To read the full memo, click here.

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